Sunday, November 4, 2007

Venison Lasagna? Is that legal?

A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a VERY LARGE log of frozen ground venison. He also gave me a 6 pound venison roast. After the roast - finally! - thawed out, it made an incredible meal. But the ground meat has been buried in my freezer ever since. Part of the reason is that he wasn't sure if it was sausage or ground meat. It wasn't marked on the outside, and he couldn't remember what his friend (the hunter) had told him.
Saturday, I thought of a way to use it that would be ok with either option: lasagna.

But I only needed one pan of lasagna, and I had about 3 or 4 pounds of meat. Frozen solid, which meant that it was all or nothing. So I made a bunch of different rice/meat casseroles (details later). And one very yummy looking lasagna.

I can never remember what order things go into a lasagna. A layer of sauce underneath the noodles? How many layers do I really need? The ricotta goes on top of the noodles, but aren't the noodles supposed to have sauce on both sides? Is it ok if I just mix it all up and bake it? Can I go back to experimenting with my new canner now?
In the end, I pour another glass of wine and just start putting things in a pan.

So, every time I make one of these suckers, the layers are probably in different orders. And every time, it tastes fantastic.
I used a 9x9 inch pan, so you have to be creative with the noodles. Being creative in the middle of making something, inevitably calls for another glass of wine. It's a good thing we found a sale this week.

Venison Lasagna

  • 1 pound ground venison (or other meat)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped in big-ish pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped in big-ish pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint tomato sauce (I used homemade, which has a ton of herbs in it already)
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • as many lasagna noodles as you need for your pan and your layers (I had 9 I think)
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375F
Begin cooking lasagna noodles til their as soft or firm as you like - I tend to under-cook them, because this sucker's going to go in the oven.

Cook the venison in a skillet until done; drain in a colander and then transfer to a large bowl. Try to leave some grease in the pan. Sauté the onions, garlic and pepper. Add to the venison.

Sauté the mushrooms, being careful not to over-cook them. Add the mushrooms to the venison. Pour the tomato sauce over the venison mixture and stir until it's all mixed up and you're ready to just grab a spoon instead of going to the trouble of building a lasagna.

If it's too dry for you, you can add some plain canned tomato sauce. I like mine chunky, though, so I rarely have to do that. Taste your mix, and decide if it needs any salt, pepper or whatever seasonings you like to taste. I put in a little more basil, because in my world there is never enough basil.

In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan and cottage cheeses with a little fresh ground black pepper to make it look interesting. This stuff is awesome eaten with a spoon. Or on a Triscuit. Or even in lasagna.

OK, now the fun begins. I *think* this is the order I put things together this time.

Get your 9 inch square pan and spray some cooking spray on it.
Put a layer of lasagna noodles. Mine were too long, so I let them curl up the sides of the pan - so it'll hold all the goodies that are about to get added.
Add half of the ricotta mixture in dollops all over the noodles, then spread it evenly around.
Put about 1/3 of your sauce/venison mix even over the top.

Get another layer of noodles. This time, I cut about 1/3 of the length off so that the noodles would fit in the pan.
Dollop the rest of the ricotta mixture on the noodles and spread it evenly.
Put half of the remaining tomato/venison mix evenly across the top.

Do one final layer of noodles. At this point, I only had one whole noodle left and I cut it to fit the pan. Then I used the pieces I had saved to cover the top. I wish I could brag that I had planned it this way from the beginning, but in reality...I started freaking out back at the 2nd layer of noodles that I didn't have enough cooked. Cutting them was my lazy way of getting out of boiling another pot of water. Because, you know, boiling water is so darn hard.

Back to the lasagna...
Put your patchwork noodle pieces on top.
Spread the rest of your tomato/venison goodness on top.
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese across the top.

The lasagna will probably be bulging out the top of the pan at this point, so put it on a baking sheet (with sides) to catch the juices that are going to bubble over. Loosely tent a piece of foil over the top, and put it in the oven for 35-40 minutes. If you want your cheese to be browned and bubbly on top, take the foil off for the last ten minutes. If it still doesn't get bubbly enough for you, turn the broiler on.

After it cooled, I froze this to feed to my out of town guests in a couple of weeks. I'll be making a vegetarian version next weekend to go with it. I still don't know what'll be in that one.

I've never frozen a baked lasagna before, so this is an experiment. It sure smelled good coming out of the oven, though:


Ember Case said...

How can you put that in the freezer without even a taste? A spoonful out of the corner... push down on what's around it, or sprinkle in some cheese, no one would know.

Self what?

Looks yummy!

HowToMe said...

Your writing style is so enjoyable! Great use for venison. :-)

s.j.simon said...

did you know how cheese was invented? It wasnt necessity, it was an accident, read this

Stephanie said...

I love love love lasagna. I need to get a meat grinder so we can grind some of our venison!

Deborah said...

Ember, I have incredible self control. Especially when there are a few leftover ingredients that I can bake in a separate pan.

Howto - thanks :) I had no idea what to do with the ground venison.

Stephanie - will you share? :) I've fallen in love with venison all over again.